This year’s hall of fame class has a very familiar name on it. If you look close enough you will see the name of our very own manager. Don Mattingly is on the ballot for the hall of fame and honestly guys, he really is one of the only players on this ballot that deserves to be inducted.
Once you wade past the nobodies, and eliminate the steroid abusers, Mattingly’s name stands apart. Mattingly was a terrific player back in his day. Let’s take a look at his playing career, and why we feel he deserves to be elected into the Hall of Fame.
Don Mattingly played for 14 seasons in the majors, and all were with the New York Yankees. Mattingly graduated from Evansville high school in Indiana. Mattingly led the Evansville Tigers to 59 consecutive victories from 1978-1979. Mattingly led the team to a state championship in 1978 and runner-up in 1979, while being selected as All-State and All-City. During the four years he played for the Evansville Tigers, he hit .463 and still holds several records for hits, doubles, triples, RBI, and runs scored.
Instead of attending Indiana State Sycamore on a scholarship, Mattingly decided to begin his professional career after he was drafted by the Yankees. Mattingly didn’t last long in the minor leagues, ascending quickly, and being called up to the majors in 1982. Donnie played in seven games that year. In 1983, Mattingly was a part time outfielder and first baseman playing sporadically and coming off the bench. He hit .283, with four home runs in 91 games.
The next season was a breakthrough year for Donnie. He won the batting title by hitting .343, and he also led the league in hits (207) and doubles (44). He hit 23 home runs and knocked in 110 runs, with a .918 OPS in 153 games. This earned him his first all-star selection, and he finished fifth in the AL MVP voting. The following year was his best. In 1985, Mattingly hit .324 with 35 home runs and 145 RBI. He led the league in RBI and Doubles (48). He also had 211 hits, played in 159 games, and had an OPS of .939. This won him the AL MVP award. He also took home a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award.
Mattingly went on to win nine gold gloves, and was considered such a great defensive player that despite throwing left handed, he appeared in a few games at second and third base. Mattingly played his entire 14 year career with the Yankees, and was given the nickname of “Donnie Baseball.”
In 1986, Mattingly finished second in the AL MVP voting, but you could have easily made the case for him to win it. He hit .352 with 31 home runs, 113 RBI, 238 hits, 53 doubles, a .573 slugging, .394 OBP, and a .967 OPS. He led the league in slugging, OPS, doubles, and hits. His 53 hits broke Lou Gehrig’s Yankee record originally set in 1927. Mattingly was beaten out by Roger Clemens that year for the AL MVP. Clemens pulled a Verlander that year, winning the MVP and CY Young. Otherwise Donnie would have won it easily. The next season in 1987, Mattingly tied the record for hitting a home run in eight consecutive games (previously held by Dale Long and later tied by Ken Griffey Jr.). Mattingly also broke records that season for consecutive games with an extra base hit (10 games). He also set a record for hitting six, yes six grand slams that season. Strangely enough, those would be the only six grand slams he would hit in his career, all coming in one season.
Unfortunately that year a back injury zapped his power and cut his career short. In 1988 and 1989 he hit .303, and .311 respectively, and his power continued to drop. He hit 18 home runs and 23 home runs during those two years. According to various reports, Mattingly had injured his back while horsing around in the clubhouse with Bob Shirley, but he denied this. Donnie’s back problems worsened in 1990, limiting him to only 103 games and a .256 batting average with only five home runs. He had to be put on the disabled list. Obviously those are not Don Mattingly numbers, not even close.
Mattingly would recover, but he was never the same. He hit .288 in both 1991 and 1992, with his power seemingly gone, nine homers in 1991, and 14 in 1992. 1993 saw a bit of un uptick from Mattingly. He hit .291 that year with 17 home runs. In 1994, Mattingly hit .304 with six home runs. The Yankees didn’t make the playoffs until Mattingly’s final season in 1995. Mattingly hit .288 in 1995 with seven home runs and 49 RBI in 128 games. The Yankees reached the postseason that year by winning the AL Wild Card on the next to last day of the season. Mattingly played in the only postseason series of his career, and it was also his last as a player.
Mattingly hit .417 with 6 RBI during the five game division playoff series. Mattingly hit a go-ahead home run in game two at Yankee Stadium, and in his final game as a player, broke a tie with a two run double in game five. However the Yankee bullpen blew the game in extra innings, and the Mariners won the series three games to two.
Mattingly went on to become a coach after his playing days were over. He was a special instructor during spring training from 1997-2003. Mattingly became the Yankee’s hitting coach from 2003-2006. At the end of the year, he was named as Bench coach under Manager Joe Torre. Donnie had interviewed for the vacant Yankee Manager position in 2007, but the Yankees hired Joe Girardi, so Mattingly followed Joe Torre out west. Mattingly became the hitting coach under Torre for the Dodgers, officially being hired as such on January 22, 2008. Mattingly would serve as hitting coach from 2008-2010, helping the Dodgers reach back to back NLCS.
After Joe Torre stepped down as Dodgers Manager in the fall of 2010, Mattingly was named Dodger’s Manager. I must admit I was very hard on Mattingly during his first season as Dodgers skipper, and to be fair to Donnie, he was dealt a bad hand. Despite his questionable bullpen management, he was able to lead the Dodgers to one of the best second half records last year of any team in Baseball. Mattingly’s no nonsense and hard working attitude allows him to be a great coach and one day a very good manager. Without Mattingly’s ability to hold the team together during the trying times of last season, the Dodgers would not have finished with a winning record.
Don Mattingly finished with 2,153 hits, 222 home runs, and 1099 RBI. He had a lifetime .307 batting average, and he won nine gold gloves. He was a six time all-star and three time Silver Slugger award winner. Plus he was the winner of the 1985 AL MVP award. Mattingly may not have 3,000 hits or 500 home runs, but he has a great career as one of the better hitters of his era. Not to mention he did it without steroids throughout his entire career. Mattingly had his number 23 retired by the Yankees, and has been eligible for the hall of fame since 2001. He has never garnered enough votes to be considered. We think that Mattingly is the only player who truly deserves the nod, surrounded on the ballot by steroid users and undeserving players. We hope he can continue to improve as Dodger’s manager in 2012, and carve out his own path in the Dodger Clubhouse.
Don Mattingly had his own plaque built at the Yankee stadium monument park once he retired as a player. The inscription on the plaque reads….“A humble man of grace and dignity, a captain who led by example, proud of the pinstripe tradition and dedicated to the pursuit of excellence, a Yankee forever.”
Vote for Mattingly for the Hall of Fame! Who else would we vote for as Dodger fans? Who else are we going to root for with this current hall of fame class? Tony Womack? I don’t think so…..Go Blue!